8 January 2018 | Dr. Raj Joshi (MBChB, MRCGP, Dip Mtn Med, Dip FIPT, FRGS)

Unpacking your gut health

What is Irritable Bowel Syndrome?

There are medical explanations and labels for many gut problems, but the big exception is Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS). IBS is typically diagnosed when all the standard tests come back negative. IBS is a 'syndrome' rather than a 'disease', meaning it's a collection of symptoms that often go hand-in-hand, but which frustratingly aren't actually attributable to a specific disease.

IBS affects more than 20% of Australians with a long list of awkward symptoms that include abdominal pain, cramping or discomfort, bloating, diarrhoea and/ or constipation, mucus, excess wind, and indigestion. Only recently have we begun to decode the mysteries of IBS. Whilst we don't yet know exactly what causes it, a number of underlying factors have been put forward, which range from genetics, the immune system, infections and the microbiome, to diet, stress and even mental health.

Gut Health Check

Since many gut disorders have similar symptoms to IBS, ruling out a more serious underlying gut disease is an important first step in troubleshooting the irritable bowel. This combination of stool tests and blood tests looks for signs of nutrient malabsorption, parasites, coeliac disease, traces of blood in the stool, pancreatic function, gut inflammation, and also includes a full blood count to check for signs of anaemia. If you're suffering from symptoms of IBS and are not sure where to start - the Gut Health Check may be worth considering.

Coeliac Check

Coeliac disease is an autoimmune disorder where exposure to gluten triggers a severe immune response that causes inflammation of the lining of the small intestine, and can cause severe digestive problems. It affects 1 in 70 Australians who are mostly diagnosed in adulthood. This Coeliac Check blood test screens for antibodies to tissue transglutaminase and gliadin. If you have a family history of autoimmune disease such as thyroid disease, diabetes or rheumatoid arthritis, then you may want to consider screening for coeliac disease.

Parasite PCR Check

Some gut problems can be a consequence of an undetected gut infection. Research indicates that a significant number of irritable bowel syndrome cases could actually be due to undiagnosed gut pathogens. This Parasite PCR Check stool test uses cutting edge multiplex PCR technology to look for the genetic fingerprint of a wide range of gut pathogens. Gut parasite infections are surprisingly common, and have been found to aggravate and even trigger Hashimoto's thyroiditis (a thyroid autoimmune condition).


FODMAPs are naturally occurring sugars found in milk and dairy products, fruits and vegetables, cereals and processed foods. These dietary sugars are poorly absorbed in the gut and in some people can cause symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome. This FODMAP Check breath test, which you can do in the comfort of your own home, uses innovative technology to detect FODMAP (fructose and lactose) malabsorption.

SIBO Check

If the small intestine becomes overgrown with bacteria it can lead to malabsorption of key nutrients and symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome. This type of bacterial overgrowth is a known complication of medicines used to treat gastric reflux. SIBO (small intestine bacterial overgrowth) is also thought to be a possible factor in some cases of fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue syndrome. Breath tests may be useful in the diagnostic workup of IBS symptoms and may be useful before changing your diet which can have adverse effects on gut microflora. Find out more with our SIBO Check.

Helicobacter Pylori Check

H. pylori is a bacteria that infects the stomach, and is now known to be a major cause of peptic ulcer disease. One third of Australians are believed to carry the bug, but many don't realise they have it. H. pylori can damage the stomach's lining making it more vulnerable to stomach acid, and those infected are more likely to develop stomach inflammation and more serious conditions. Unlike a blood test, this Helicobacter Pylori Check breath test can be used to detect an active h.pylori infection.

Microbiome Check

The gut microbiome refers to the array of microorganisms that live in your gut (over 2kg of microorganisms in fact!). While bacteria in your gut may sound like a bad thing, they are mostly beneficial and essential for good health. The microbiome is influenced by diet, environment, exposure to antibiotics and chemicals, as well as infections. Dysbiosis is a condition where there's an unhealthy imbalance in the microbiome. This Microbiome Check digestive stool analysis measures and quantifies the bacteria and fungi in your gut, and shows you if you have an undergrowth or overgrowth in specific categories of gut microbe.

Intestinal Permeability Check

The lining of the intestine and gut microbiome make the gut highly selective in absorbing specific nutrients. This lining also provides a very tight defensive system that blocks unwanted materials from being absorbed. When this gut lining is compromised, unwanted substances can cross the barrier and activate an immune response. This Intestinal Permeability (Leaky Gut) Check urine test checks whether larger molecules may be penetrating the gut lining and are detected in the urine.

Meet Jennifer May (Adv.Dip. NutMed, ATMS)

Nutritional medicine is the study of the relationship between food and a healthy body. It involves analysing how nutrients are processed, stored and discarded by your body, and explores how what you eat affects your overall well-being. If you're serious about changing your lifestyle to improve your health, you may want to consider a teleconsult with our clinical nutritionist Jennifer May. Jennifer, consults on a variety of health issues including hormonal, digestive, cardiovascular, immune, and blood glucose related conditions. Her key interest is helping people recover from stress, food intolerance and chronic illness. Find out more about Jennifer's work in her blog.

Want to know more?

Reach out to the team for for more information about our health checks, or to book a teleconsult.

Try i-screen's Gut Health Check
Dr. Raj Joshi (MBChB, MRCGP, Dip Mtn Med, Dip FIPT, FRGS)
Raj is a Primary Care Physician and qualified Personal Trainer who practises transformative medicine. He trained in the UK and is the Travel Medicine Director of The Centre for Health and Human Performance in London. Raj's philosophy centres around how lifestyle can influence disease and how positive changes can be used to help prevent illness or as a significant component in treating medical conditions. He believes that to be truly healthy one should not just stay disease free, but optimise health to be as fit as possible.

Red flag symptoms you should never ignore!

Red flag symptoms you should raise with your GP or gastroenterologist include:

  • New symptoms over the age of 50
  • Pain or difficulty swallowing
  • Vomiting blood or black stools
  • Unexplained iron deficiency anaemia
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Jaundice which can indicate a liver issue
  • Family history of bowel cancer or inflammatory bowel disease (IBD)
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